Zucchini Pizza Boats

Summer is the time for lazy days at the lake, yard work – or harvesting tons of fresh veggies from the garden!

Here in Saskatchewan, this is the time of year that the zucchini go crazy.

Gardeners use every possible recipe to use up their excess and then start giving zucchini to their friends, family, neighbours, and maybe even complete strangers!

We all want to make sure the produce we have worked so hard to grow doesn’t go to waste.

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So I’m here today to give you inspiration for one more yummy way you can use your zucchini – Zucchini Pizza Boats!

The great part about this recipe is that it is low carb, does great on the grill, and you can use other garden fresh veggies.

Just like with pizza, it is a flexible recipe that you can pick and choose which toppings you would like to use.

I like to start with a zucchini that is borderline too large because the skin will be a little tough, which makes the “boat” hold its shape on the grill better. Plus this gives you a larger hollow to add your sauce and toppings to!

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Cut the zucchini in half long-wise and scoop out the soft, seedy part.

Don’t throw it out, though! We will use the insides in the sauce in a minute.

Next, heat a pan on medium heat and add some butter, a few cloves of garlic, and diced onion.

I personally like to add whole cloves of garlic; once they are nice and soft, I just smash them with my knife and give them a quick chop.

I find that method a lot quicker than mincing or grating them raw.

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Oh! And this is where the zucchini insides get added.

Next, add diced tomato and some chopped oregano & basil.

I like a bit of heat to my food, so I add an entire cayenne pepper (either a fresh, chopped pepper or a crumbled, dehydrated pepper).

Then, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. This really makes the flavour pop!

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And as expected, give the sauce a nice seasoning of salt & pepper.

Allow it to come to a simmer and cook the sauce down until it is no longer watery.

The more tomato you add, the more like a pizza sauce it will be.

Adding the zucchini insides, however, makes the sauce a bit different texture than normal pizza sauce, but hey – waste not, want not!

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Once your sauce has cooked down to the desired consistency, scoop it into your zucchini boats.

Then you get to add your toppings!

I find that the toppings work best when they are added first and then the cheese added on top; when the cheese gets gooey, anything on top tends to try to slide off if the zucchini boat isn’t quite flat.

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You can bake the zucchini boats at 350º for about 40 minutes (depending on their size, time will vary).

My favorite, however, is throwing them on the grill with a bit of smoke!

The flavour is amazing that way, plus if it is a hot day you aren’t heating up your house.

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On a pre-heated grill, it typically takes about 40 minutes on low-to-medium heat to cook the zucchini boats.

NOTE: Be careful how high your flame is; you do not want to char the skin!

You can also use a pre-soaked wood plank to add flavour (and catch any gooey cheese that tries to drip off).

I like my Maple Grilling Plank better for this recipe than my Cedar Grilling Planks because it has a lighter flavour.

I like the zucchini to be soft enough to easily pierce with a fork, but not so soft that it is falling apart.

Some people may prefer their zucchini to be firmer so they are almost crunchy still.

That is completely up to you!

Once you remove the zucchini boat from the heat, allow it to cool for a couple minutes.

Enjoy!

I promise this will become a fast favourite!

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While zucchini is usually served as a side veggie, I like serving this as a main – or even the entire meal because it is so filling!

Recipe

1 large zucchini

1 large tomato

1/2 large onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

1 cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Basil & oregano, to taste

Salt & pepper, to taste

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Directions

Cut the zucchini in half long-wise and scoop out the soft, seedy centre (reserve for later).

In a pan on medium heat, sauté garlic, diced onion, and diced tomato in butter.

Add zucchini insides along with balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, basil, and oregano.

If you want some heat, add cayenne pepper as well.

Salt & pepper to taste.

Simmer until the sauce has reduced to desired consistency.

Scoop sauce into zucchini boats, then add toppings and cheese.

Bake at 350º for about 40 minutes or grill on low-to-medium heat for about 40 minutes.

Cook time will vary depending on the size of zucchini and desired softness.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

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What is your favourite zucchini recipe? Drop a comment below!

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Spicy Shrimp Taco Lettuce Wraps (with crema sauce)

Tacos of any kind are always a hit, and with summer weather this light, tasty taco recipe is a favourite! (Not to mention healthy!)

The mixture of creamy avocado, crunchy cabbage, and zesty shrimp are an explosion of flavour, texture, and color!

They are so fast and easy to make that it begs the question why I don’t make them more often!

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One of the other perks is the minimal heat that it adds to the house during a sweltering, summer day.

Start by thawing your frozen raw shrimp in cold water; this method helps thaw the shrimp more quickly than just setting it out to thaw and prevents it from cooking if you were to microwave it or use hot water.

If you have fresh raw shrimp, it will be that much better!

NOTE: pre-cooked shrimp will not have the ideal flavour or texture, so try to get raw shrimp if at all possible.

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Next, collect all your fresh veggies; cabbage, red onion, avocado, jalapeño, lemon, lime and, of course, the butter lettuce to wrap it all up!

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Slice the avocado, jalapeño, red onion, and cabbage into thin slices.

A slightly firmer avocado makes them easier to slice and keep the pieces together, rather than accidentally mashing them in the process.

Prepare the crema sauce by adding 1/4 cup sour cream to a bowl.

Zest 1/4 of the lime, then juice 1/4 of the lime into the same bowl.

Add salt & pepper to taste.

The crema sauce really makes all the flavours pop, so don’t skip this step!

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By now your shrimp should be thawed; devein and shell them if they are not already prepared this way.

Place in a bowl and juice 1/4 fresh lemon, then add the cayenne, cumin, and paprika.

Mix well, making sure the spices are rubbed into the shrimp well (I use my hands).

Allow to sit for about 5 minutes so the shrimp absorbs as much flavour as possible.

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Fry in a pre-heated pan on high heat with butter until just cooked.

You do not want to overcook shrimp; it makes them chewy.

You can tell they are ready to be flipped when they start turning pink on the bottom.

Once the second side turns pink and the center is white (and not translucent) you know they are ready.

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Plate the lettuce, garnishing it with the cabbage, red onion, jalapeño, and sliced avocado.

A little bit goes a long way, so don’t overdo the toppings.

Finally, add the shrimp and drizzle with crema sauce.

If you are a cilantro lover, by all means sprinkle a few leaves on top!

This will be the life of the party next time you host dinner!

It pairs well with chips and chunky salsa and guacamole dips on the side.

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Recipe

24 medium sized raw shrimp

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 lemon, juiced

8 leaves butter lettuce

Shredded cabbage, to taste

Thinly sliced red onion, to taste

Thinly sliced jalapeño, to taste

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

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Crema Sauce

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 lime, juiced

1/4 lime zest

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Directions

Devein and shell thawed, raw shrimp and combine with cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, and lemon juice.

Marinate for 5 minutes.

Thinly slice cabbage, red onion, jalapeño, and avocado.

Make crema sauce by combining sour cream, lime, and lime zest.

Fry shrimp in pre-heated pan on high heat with butter. Do not overcook!

Plate the lettuce leaves, then garnishing with cabbage, red onion, jalapeño, and avocado. Place 3 shrimp on each taco and drizzle with crema sauce.

Makes 8 tacos

Enjoy!

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Sourdough Hamburger Buns

Barbecue season is upon us!

Who doesn’t love a classic hamburger with chips, fries or potato salad on a hot summer day?

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Of course you can go with the quick-and-easy store-bought option for the buns and patties, but the homemade version is definitely the gourmet choice!

Sourdough hamburger buns quickly became a favourite when I started on my baking journey… They have so much more flavour, wonderful texture, and I know exactly what ingredients have gone into the food I am eating!

As with all sourdough recipes, it does take a little more planning ahead to make sure they have sufficient time to rise (and develop that nice, tangy sourdough flavour).

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But, as I often say, it is all worth it for the superior quality you get by making it yourself!

If you are new to sourdough baking and don’t know how to make your own sourdough starter, check out this easy DIY tutorial for sourdough starter.

The first step in this sourdough hamburger bun recipe is to combine the sourdough starter, water, and 1/2 cup of the flour.

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Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30-60 minutes.

Next, melt the butter and slightly heat the milk to about room temperature and add to the bowl.

Add the sugar, salt, and egg. Combine well.

Mix the remaining flour a little at a time; if you are using a mixer, the dough should begin to clear the bowl when it is the right consistency.

Place in a well oiled bowl and turn over so the dough is oiled on both sides, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

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When the timer goes off, fold the dough into the centre from one side, then repeat with the remaining 3 sides.

Turn the dough upside down, cover it again, and allow to rise in a warm area for another 30 minutes.

Repeat this process and leave for 60 minutes.

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Finally, the process is repeated one more time and another 60 minute rise time.

The dough should be a very elastic consistency at this point and smell nice and tangy.

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and roll into rounds, then squish them into roughly the diameter you would like for your hamburger buns.

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving enough room between the bun dough to allow them to rise without sticking to each other.

At this point, I add my sesame seeds and slightly press them into the bun; I find this helps them stick better than if they are added on top of the egg wash after the buns have risen.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 60 minutes or until they have doubled in size.

Brush with egg wash; this gives the hamburger buns a beautiful, golden color when they have finished baking.

Place into the pre-heated oven at 400º F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

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Place on a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel until cool.

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I personally love to toast my hamburger buns in the oven before serving; to do this, I butter them well, then place on a baking sheet open side up – and stand and watch them the entire time they broil!

There have been too many times in my life that multi-tasking has caused burned buns… or garlic toast…

Trust me on this! The few minutes it takes them to broil is well worth keeping a diligent eye on them.

I find that broiling them, rather than grilling or placing them into a frying pan gives more even browning and retains more of the butter (because they are face up, rather than face down).

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Next, add your topping of choice and enjoy!

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Recipe

1 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup warm water

3 cups white flour, divided

3/4 cup warm milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 egg

Egg wash (1 egg + 1/4 teaspoon water, beaten)

Sesame seeds

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Directions

Combine sourdough starter, 1/2 cup flour, and water.

Cover and let sit in a warm location for 30-60 minutes.

Melt butter and warm the milk to room temperature. Add to bowl with the sourdough mixture along with egg, sugar, and salt and mix well.

Add remaining flour a little at a time, mixing until the dough develops an elastic consistency. If you are using a mixer, the dough should begin to clear the bowl.

Place dough in a well-oiled bowl and flip, so the dough is oiled on all sides.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Fold the dough into itself from 4 sides, turn over the dough over, and cover again.

Allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

Repeat the folding process and allow to rise for 60 minutes.

Finally, fold once more and allow to rise for another 60 minutes.

Place dough onto lightly floured surface and cut into 8 equal sized pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball with your hand, then squish into approximately the diameter you would like for your hamburger buns.

Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, then cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Brush with egg wash.

Place in pre-heated oven at 400º F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Move to cooling rack, cover with a tea towel, and allow to cool.

Enjoy!

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Round Steak and Gravy

Round Steak and Gravy has been a family favourite my whole life.

In fact, this was actually the very first meal I made from start to finish, all by myself at 12 years of age!

It was also our “featured special” for Kid’s Café when we would put on a date night for Mom and Dad, complete with candles and piano music from our recent lessons.

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As with so many of my recipes, I have added or changed some of the ingredients over the years.

This recipe is hearty, packed with flavour, and is a “set it and forget it” crockpot champ!

Using cubed round steak, flour and brown the meat on high heat in a pan with oil.

Add salt and pepper as it cooks.

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Note: you only want to brown the outside, not thoroughly cook the meat at this point; this helps add flavour while retaining the tenderness.

Once the cubes are golden brown on all sides, add to the crockpot with cream of mushroom soup and turn to low heat.

In the same frying pan, cook the chopped onion, mushrooms, and minced garlic until tender.

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Add to the crock pot and mix well.

Leave on low heat for 3-4 hours.

At this point, the meat should be tender and flake apart.

Serve on top of boiled potatoes with a side of greens and you’re set!

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Recipe

1 pound round steak, cubed

1/4 cup flour (or as needed to coat meat)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 large onion, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced

Salt

Pepper

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Instructions:

Coat cubed round steak in flour and fry in a pan with oil on high heat until golden brown on all sides.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place in crock pot with cream of mushroom soup on low heat.

In the same pan, cook onions, mushrooms, and garlic until soft.

Add to crock pot and mix well.

Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Serve on boiled potatoes.

Enjoy!

(Serves 2)

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Fish Tacos

Fish tacos have been a difficult blog recipe to write about because of the nature of the beast…

Let me explain:

We usually spend a lovely day on the lake catching Northern Pikes (sometimes “lovely” means rainy and cool, but catching lots) and get home at midnight or 1 AM.

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The fish tend to bite really well after the sun begins to go down, hence our late arrivals back home (we usually have an hour or two of gravel country roads after getting off the water, depending which lake we went to).

Therefore, as soon as we get home with our fresh fish, Jake starts filleting them while I start prepping everything for fish tacos.

(I personally have filleted my fair share of salmon up in Alaska, but here?! Nope! Jake does all the filleting!)

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At this point we are usually STARVING!

… which means remembering to take any photos for the blog often falls to the wayside in favour of chowing down on some delicious fish tacos!

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We may or may not have had fish tacos for breakfast the morning following our last fishing trip (that’s normal, right?!) and I finally got some photos for this recipe!

I know many people don’t like the taste of Northern Pike, however I enjoy it when it has been cooked properly.

And the fight?!

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Wow! Northern Pike put up such a good fight that even a small fish is fun to catch, even if we have to throw it back because it was too small.

For me, the fish tacos are about the whole experience from beginning to end…

… the relaxing time on the sparkling water, the adrenaline rush when a fish finally hits my line, the quality time with my honey, and finally, the amazing taste of fish tacos (increased by our extreme hunger).

To debone or not to debone

This is a HUGE must for fish tacos!!!

I can not stress that enough!

When you are just having a fish fry, sure, you can pick the bones out as you eat – but that is not an option with fish tacos!

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If you don’t know how to debone fish yet, check YouTube for tutorials… or better yet, ask someone who knows how to do it to show you a few times and then try it for yourself.

I personally don’t know how to debone fish, but Jake has become a pro at it by now!

It does take practice to become proficient, but trust me when I say it is worth it.

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So what is my recipe?

The sauce is what really kicks these fish tacos up a notch.

I love a bit of heat, so I tend to add some spice to the sauce I make from scratch.

The other “yum factor” is using Cajun Fish Crisp when frying the fillets in butter.

It gives a nice crunch and the flavour is outstanding!

The fact that Fish Crisp is Canadian Made is also a bonus for me; I LOVE seeing that the products I buy support local economy.

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While Jake is out filleting the fish, I start by prepping the veggies.

I thinly slice the purple cabbage; it adds both color and crunch.

Sometimes I will add a few thinly sliced red onions to my tacos, but not always.

Next come the quartered cherry tomatoes and slivers of cucumber.

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I mix all the veggies together and drizzle with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Then I start on the sauce; a good scoop of sour cream, several splashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, fresh lime juice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, and a bunch of fresh cilantro all get blended together in my food processor.

(I just got this KitchenAid food processor and LOVE it!)

The heat level can be adjusted to taste; some people like spice like I do, however some people can’t handle anything too hot.

Once the fish is all filleted, I dredge the pieces in the Fish Crisp, then fry in butter on high heat until they are golden brown on each side.

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Then I heat the flour tortillas one at a time in a pan on high heat (without oil); once they start to bubble, I flip them and then remove them from the heat when the second side bubbles.

This brings out flavour in the tortillas and gives them flexibility so they don’t break when folded.

The next step is the long-awaited assembly of toppings and finally eating the fish tacos!

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The beauty of tacos is that each person can add the amount of toppings they would like.

Any extra raw fish we have left from our fishing trip will either get eaten for breakfast the following morning or frozen for future fish tacos.

I know there are tons of ways to make fish, but these tacos are just so good that we almost always go this route.

Recipe

Northern Pike (or other white fish)

Cajun Fish Crisp

Butter

1/2 cup purple cabbage

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup cucumber

Red onion, optional

Flour tortillas

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Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 lime zested and juiced

1 bunch cilantro

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Directions

Prep vegetables by thinly slicing cabbage and cucumber. Quarter cherry tomatoes.

Mix vegetables and drizzle with fresh lime juice.

Dredge fish in Fish Crisp and fry in butter on high heat until golden brown on both sides.

Make sauce by combining all ingredients in food processor and blend.

Toast flour tortillas to warm.

Add vegetables and fish to each tortilla and top with sauce.

Enjoy!

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Oh right! The last two pictures?

Yep, I couldn’t help but throw them in…

This was the biggest Northern Pike I have EVER caught (18.5 lbs – it was HEAVY to hold for photos)!

I was in a sit-inside kayak, no less! The guy at the kayak store told me I would never be able to catch fish in a sit-inside kayak and that I HAD to get a sit-on-top style to get fish… (guess I showed him! lol)

It took about half an hour to land this beast and I got pulled all over the lake in the meantime.

That night was well after 1 AM before we got home and got to eat some fresh fish!

There! I got my “big fish brag moment” in.

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What is your favourite way to make fish? Drop a comment below!

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